Like so many businesses adapting to a new economy, R/GA wants to expand beyond digital marketing and into consulting, startups and "connected spaces," or modern office design. In keeping with that goal, the agency recently ventured outside the world of advertising to find its first global chief talent officer.
Andre Chambers joins the IPG company this week at its headquarters in New York after serving as director of global talent acquisition and recruiting at Bay Area gaming giant EA and previously leading Microsoft's talent management efforts in London, Latin America and the Caribbean. In the newly-created role, he will report directly to founder, CEO and chairman Bob Greenberg while focusing on the R/GA network's talent planning and retention efforts and leading its diversity and inclusion programs across 15 offices around the world.
Chambers arrives at what he describes as a "tipping point" for an industry still struggling to diversify. Verizon, HP and General Mills recently made headlines for either strongly encouraging or requiring their present and future agency partners to fulfill a series of staffing quotas or suggestions focused on increasing the number of women and people of color on their respective teams. Chambers sees this trend as a sign that the industry must address these challenges more aggressively.
"I applaud the clients pushing [diversity initiatives]," Chambers said this week, "but in many ways I'm disappointed that it took them to get the industry to do it versus proactively doing it ourselves."
"[Diversity] is a personal passion of mine, and I think the challenges facing the tech, gaming and ad industries have been well-documented," he added. "I think it's interesting that there are a lot of conversations around the topic, but for me it's more about starting a dialogue about what we're doing versus discussing philosophies that make for great quotes."
Chambers said, "It's all about the impact: What's working? How are we experimenting versus just spouting things and making assumptions?"
When asked which approaches worked during his time in the tech and gaming industries, he said, "One key is making sure it's coming from the organization's leaders and having them be personally involved. Another important piece is making sure this isn't something developed separately from business and talent plans; it should be integrated." He added, "If you're serious about making progress, you need to measure and monitor it … [for example], what do promotion, retention and attrition rates look like for minority employees?"
"Frankly, in many ways creative agencies—[along with] entertainment, media and tech companies—are best positioned to take advantages of increasing diversity and inclusion," he said. "I believe significant business opportunities exist for the companies that get it right."
Greenberg effectively mirrored these sentiments in a statement on the hire. "Talent has always been at the center of everything we do, but as we've expanded our core offering to include consulting, start-up accelerators and connected spaces, it has become more important than ever," he said. "The experience Andre brings from the gaming industry and multinational technology companies will be invaluable as we compete for best-in-class creative, technology and strategic talent across the globe."
As a newcomer, Chambers will spend the first few weeks in his job growing more familiar with both the R/GA organization and the ad industry at large. He said the prospect of working directly with Greenberg played a large role in convincing him to accept the position, adding, "R/GA's business knowledge is very unique, and as they pivot into different spaces, they will attract different kinds of talent."
"At the end of the day for me," he said, "the key is to ensure that you're engaging with these strategies in the hope that your employee base will mirror your consumer base."
Chambers holds a B.S. from SUNY Fredonia and an M.S. from Clarkson University; he also attended London Business School's Executive Development program.